Burnout runs rampant in the tech field. IT jobs are extremely stressful; most tech teams are stretched to or beyond their limits, and tech pros regularly work over 40 hours a week. To keep an IT team engaged, motivated and healthy, it is important to foster work-life balance so they can manage stress and avoid the burnout that so often leads to turnover.
Why Does Work-Life Balance Matter?
In a word, stress. Stress has a negative impact on physical and mental health. If a tech pro’s blood pressure spikes every time they get a phone alert, or if they feel like they are working around the clock and never getting a break, they can begin to develop symptoms. Prolonged and extreme stress can cause anxiety, depression, exhaustion, weight gain, sleep disorders and cardiovascular problems, and makes people more susceptible to viruses and illness.
When people experience stress-related symptoms, their productivity and engagement levels drop. They may call off sick frequently or be completely disengaged at work. Eventually, those people will begin to look for new jobs. Strong work-life balance can improve productivity, engagement and long-term retention.
How to Help Improve Work-Life Balance
As a leader, you can help your team achieve stronger balance through a variety of strategies:
- Encourage time off: Don’t make people feel guilty for taking time off – encourage it. If you notice someone who might be burning out, suggest they take a long weekend or a full vacation to recharge their batteries.
- Let people have free time: When IT pros are off the clock and not on call, let them have that time to themselves. Only contact people who are officially on call to solve after-hours problems.
- Assign PTO backups: Assign “backup buddies” to cover one another on days off so nothing falls through the cracks and the employee who is off can fully disengage.
- Allow flexible scheduling: Is it absolutely necessary to have everyone in the office from nine to five? Or could you let people set an eight-hour schedule that works for them (within reason)? Flexible start times let people drop their kids off at school or pick them up, or just choose hours centered around their schedules and peak energy levels.
- Go remote: If you have the technology to allow people to telecommute, offer them the option to work from home a few days a month.
- Augment your staff: Major projects that require lots of overtime put your team in danger of burning out. Hiring skilled contractors and consultants for busy periods ensures the workload is manageable and prevents burnout while keeping the project on target.